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Two-time state champion Kennedy Phelan commits to FSU
Coach Jessica Phelan (left) and Kennedy Phelan (right) will aim to capture three state titles together. (Credit: kennaphelan/Instagram)

Two-time state champion Kennedy Phelan commits to FSU

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (BVM) — Volleyball has always been special for Kennedy Phelan. She’s been playing volleyball for most of her life and she finally reached one of the pinnacles of her athletic career when she was awarded 2021-22 Gatorade Arkansas Volleyball Player of the Year. 

“I think my parents woke me up with a huge bottle of Gatorade,” Phelan said. “After I had a bit to wake up and process what had happened, it became a very surreal experience. I grew up watching many incredible Fayetteville volleyball players earn this award, and it was definitely something I am honored to be named.”

The 5-foot-8 junior setter led the Fayetteville Bulldogs to an overall record of 32-4 and back-to-back Class 6A state championships. In her award-winning season, Phelan produced 1,123 assists, 274 digs, 112 service aces, 88 kills and 31 blocks. Following the state championship, Phelan was named the 2021 6A state tournament MVP and the All-Arkansas Preps Player of the Year.

“We were the reigning state champs; there was a lot on the line,” Phelan said. “We played out of our minds. Every single person put out their best game of the year in that final. It was such a great group of girls to win it with…It was absolutely incredible. The feeling of that ball dropping on match point, the team running out on the court, the dogpile; there’s nothing like it.”

The Bulldogs would sweep Har-Ber High School in three sets. Phelan finished with 41 assists and 14 digs to propel the Bulldogs to their sixth championship in program history.

“Kennedy is a total package threat,” Southside High School head volleyball coach Natalie Throneberry said in a Gatorade press release. “The service line, back-row defense, setting accuracy and―her biggest area of growth―on the front row, with better blocking and an ability to dump really coming on this season. With a game on the line, I’d want the ball in Kennedy’s hands.”

Along with the awards and winning a championship alongside her teammates, Phelan has also got to play volleyball for her mom, Jessica Phelan. Jessica played volleyball at the University of Arkansas and was the first player to earn All-American status. Jessica was inducted into the Razorback Hall of Fame in 2011.  

“[It] really just makes the whole situation sweeter,” Kennedy said. “Being the coach’s kid does come with added expectation, but it has been so incredible to share my Fayetteville career with her.”

Now, as Kennedy’s career continues to take off, Kennedy is thankful for her mom and her experiences growing up around volleyball.

“Volleyball is such a huge part of my life, and getting the chance to do what I love every day is incredibly special,” Kennedy said. “I grew up eager to play, following my mom’s high school team everywhere. I was a gym rat; played in all the kiddie clinics and leagues for as long as I remember. My first year of travel ball was in the third grade, and I just fell in love with the sport.”

Having that love for the sport instilled at an early age helped create an extraordinary drive in Kennedy. That drive has led her to want to be the best and continue her athletic career at the collegiate level. 

“FSU was my dream school,” Kennedy said. “They compete at a high level on both the indoor and outdoor surfaces. Coach Poole (the indoor coach at FSU) coached my mom while he was at Arkansas. I had met some of the older commits at camps and knew I could see myself there. I actually ended up committing the same day they offered me.”

Kennedy’s athletic drive has also trickled over into her academic life too. She’s maintained a 3.91 GPA throughout high school and continues to volunteer at Potter’s House in Fayetteville. 

“The community means everything,” Kennedy said. “There is something special about being a part of Fayetteville volleyball and the legacy that comes with it. We had so much support this year from our parents and students, and it really made this year so much more special.”

Kennedy will aim to capture her third state title in her senior season. But when she reaches Tallahassee, Kennedy has bigger goals she wants to accomplish.

“In indoor, I would love to help our team finish high in the NCAA championships and compete for an ACC championship,” Kennedy said. “FSU has so many talented returners and strong commits coming in, and I really think that we can accomplish something very special. As for the beach side [of things], it would be incredible for FSU to make it back to the finals and get the national championship.”

A lot of great things lie ahead for Kennedy. And whatever she accomplishes, it will be remembered by many people, especially those in Fayetteville and those who are close to her. 

“Our school support was definitely one of the best in the state,” Kennedy said. “My support system is endless, and I am so grateful for each and every person to be involved in my athletic journey.” 

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